Integrating Technology in Your Literacy Block: Best Practices for Getting Started

In today’s 21st century classrooms, technology is no longer an add-on, but an essential component of student learning. In order for students to truly be college- and career-ready, they need to be digitally literate and fluent in the use of technology. For language arts teachers, there are a wide range of high-quality resources that can strengthen student academic performance in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language while increasing student engagement. But where should they begin?

Both the classroom teacher and building administrator can take steps to ensure that technology integration during the literacy block is successful through thoughtful planning and strategic choices on how, when, and where technology can be used during instruction.

Here are some of the things they’ll need to consider:

Plans and Preparation

The move toward implementing new technology for a school building can often come from initiatives beyond the school; suddenly principals are faced with state or district-wide plans for purchasing mobile devices, laptop computers or interactive whiteboards. New technology works best with a clear plan in place that includes how building infrastructures will support an increase in bandwidth usage to handle the increased traffic on a school’s wireless network. School leaders must also be prepared to support their teachers’ professional development, address questions on device management, and include digital citizenship coursework for their students. Preparation is key in any successful initiative and this is especially true with technology integration.

Integration vs. Inclusion

“Including” technology into a lesson is very different than “integrating” these resources into the everyday lives of your students. “Including” technology in classroom routines is a nice first step, and a way to build confidence for both teacher and student users of technology. In a literacy classroom teachers might create stations with interactive iBooks or grammar games on an iPad as they aim to include technology during this block. As these same teachers grow in their comfort level and proficiency they can integrate technology into their instruction by using an iPad as a creation tool that is focused on a task. For example, students can read an iBook, highlight tricky sentences, create a screencast that shows how they found the meaning of the word and submit the video to their teacher to monitor their comprehension.

Interactive Software in Action

Many teachers are integrating technology programs into their instruction to meet the individual needs of all learners. One great example is Scholastic’s iRead. It’s being used in K-2 classrooms to build early literacy skills and help young readers get off to a strong start. Students get an individualized experience so they can move at their own pace and practice the skills they need the most. Interactive software like iRead empowers students as learners to explore literacy skills in new ways. When choosing the best fit for their school or classroom, educators should lean towards quality over quantity. Comprehensive programs or mobile apps that provide options for customization and personalization can have more of an impact than stand-alone games and activities that are pieced together.

Tablet technology is transforming the way that teachers are designing instruction. Developing a plan and identifying software are just two steps in the right direction.  As educators integrate technology into the literacy block, they should keep their focus on the needs of their students, leverage new resources, and empower young learners with interactive, engaging programs.